Province pledges $66 million to kickstart tourism in Alberta

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The provincial government is increasing funding to Travel Alberta in an effort to further recovery and double pre-pandemic sector impact by 2030.

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Doug Schweitzer, minister of jobs, economy and innovation, announced the province was kicking in an extra $63 million in addition to baseline funding to the Crown corporation as part of the Bootstrap Plan over the next three years on Friday at Burwood Distillery in Calgary.

“It’s really going to be focused on marketing the amazing opportunities to come and visit Alberta,” said the minister. “There are so many parts of Alberta that people want to experience, and further building up partnerships with our Indigenous communities as well.”

The funding includes more than $50 million to enhance and grow visitor products and experiences, of which $3.75 million will go towards Indigenous tourism. It will allow the crown corporation to focus on growth and development without tapping into its marketing budget.

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Travel Alberta is accepting applications for two programs designed to hit on these goals. The product investment fund will provide up to $500,000 to support business growth and experience enhancement. The co-operative investment fund, meanwhile, will provide up to $100,000 to support rural and smaller communities to grow their tourism initiatives.

Pre-pandemic, tourism had about a $10-billion annual impact on Alberta’s economy. The Bootstrap Plan aims to get the province back to that mark by 2024 and to double those revenues by 2030-2032.

Travel Alberta also shifted its mandate 18 months ago to a destination management corporation from a destination marketing mandate, the only tourism organization in Canada with such a scope.

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Schweitzer said this shift has made it more nimble and responsive to different issues, challenges and strategies.

The tourism industry was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, with broad-ranging health orders across all sectors.

With travel restrictions and testing requirements being lifted in recent weeks, David Goldstein, president and COO of Travel Alberta, said they are already starting to see that recovery just from domestic travel. This will be accelerated further as more destinations open up in Europe and the U.S.

One of the big challenges ahead is to restart the conference and events portion of the sector.

“Hardest hit, hardest to bring back,” said Goldstein. “The air access piece dovetails with that as well, because it requires air access to markets from California to New York and a lot of the business travel back and forth between Texas … It’s a longer tail to build back, but part of this investment is actively investing with our key partners who are in the direct sales business for those businesses.”

Twitter: @JoshAldrich03

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